LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes review for Xbox 360, PS3

Platform: Xbox 360
Also On: PS3
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Developer: Traveler’s Tales
Medium: DVD-Rom
Players: 1-2
Online: No

I?d say that I tend to enjoy Traveler?s Tales LEGO titles quite a bit, and while there have been a few duds here and there (Pirates of the Caribbean springs to mind), as a whole you?re going to have a tough time finding better, family friendly video games to enjoy with your kids.

LEGO Batman 2: DC Superheroes continues along that path nicely, and provides one the more ambitious entries into the franchise than we?ve seen so far. While the core concept remains relatively untouched, which involves smashing LEGO objects to collect studs, building objects to figure out puzzles, and navigating a fairly large hub (a concept introduced in the Harry Potter titles), all of these aspects just feel a whole lot bigger this time out.

Take the hub world, for instance. LEGO Batman 2 doesn?t just give you an expanded version of the Batcave to toy around in, instead you get the entirety of Gotham City, complete with tall buildings, hidden objectives, citizens in peril, and a whole host of vehicles to navigate the city streets with. It?s a slight nod to other, more popular open world titles usually reserved for more adult styled video games like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row. And while there?s certainly a bit more ground to explore than there is stuff to do, you can definitely have a bit of your own fun with it all if you?re willing to.

The addition of new superheroes also adds a brand new element, and besides Batman and Robin, you?ll gain access to guys like Superman, Green Lantern, and so on. Superman in particular is a blast to toy around with, and comes complete with flight, heat vision, and cold breath. Besides just using him to solve puzzles in the individual levels, flying around Gotham and making a mess of things with Supes is a pretty entertaining diversion, and his powers scale nicely to the LEGO infused settings.

The actual stages, which contain much of the gameplay here, also seem to be expanded upon in design. There?s a lot of thought that went into the puzzles, outside of just hitting switches and levers, and there?s a literal plethora of skills, devices, and suits at your disposal for different reasons. In the first few stages alone you?ll gain access to more suits than I ever remember being present in the first LEGO Batman game.

And the selection of villains here is pretty vast. With the addition of more superheroes, comes a cast of bad guys that?s culled from various corners of the DC Universe. So while the game starts off with the more classic Batman villains like Two-Face, Joker, Riddler, and Catwoman, you?ll soon face off against guys from both the Flash and Green Lanterns rogues gallery, along with a number of other side characters that flesh out the story.

In regards to the story, this is also the first Traveler?s Tales LEGO title to feature fully voiced work for every character. While there?s still a certain level of emoting and grunting LEGO sounds that occur, most of the in-between level cutscenes involve fully voiced characters interacting, which does take a little getting used to. I imagine this helps rectify the problem in not retelling a tale taken from a film like previous games, and just helps sell the plot for interested parties. As far as actual story goes, it?s not necessarily mind-blowing, but is definitely fun and has a few laugh out loud moments scattered about. Again, it?s kid friendly, but not without a few subtle winks for the adults that enjoy the games as well.

Also worth noting is that I found this to be a visually impressive game from the team over at Traveler?s Tales. The last Harry Potter title looked pretty good, but there?s certainly a higher level of polish that went into pulling off Gotham City in LEGO form, and it doesn?t lose any of its gothic architecture even when broken down into the familiar blocks. Texture work for various structures looks exceptionally nice here, and I?m glad to see the use of some more real-world looking foliage scattered about to help sell the environment better than just LEGO could. It?s an interesting mix of real objects and LEGO blocks that look better than any of the previous LEGO titles have for me.

Also, the soundtrack is appropriately epic, using both familiar themes from Batman and Superman films. Sometimes they?re used for comedic effect, sure, but hearing that slow crescendo build during the opening title sequence really helps set the mood for any kind of Batman adventure, and LEGO Batman 2 doesn?t miss a beat here.

As usual, co-op is still the best way to play the game, and the standard local drop-in / drop-out co-op mode is present here. Again, no online play  sadly, but I?m hoping that this is something Traveler?s Tales starts shooting for, at least for the next console cycle. As it stands though, you?ll have hard time finding a better game to sit down and play with if you have children or younger siblings, considering neither of you should get bored with LEGO Batman 2?s incredibly fun gameplay.

So while I do tend to be pretty positive about the LEGO series as a whole, it?s also easy to see that this is the best effort Traveler?s Tales has put into the franchise as of yet. I?d say the last time I felt suitably impressed was with the work they did bringing Hogwarts alive in the first Harry Potter title, and the use of Gotham City here certainly outclasses that. So, needless to say, I urge you to check out LEGO Batman 2, and I?m sure you?ll get just as much enjoyment out of the experience as I did.

Grade: A-